Part 125: A World AwayUpdate 114: A World Away (Act 3, Scenes 3-5)
Katawa Shoujo OST - Breathlessly
LILLY: I'd hoped she might have gotten at least a little better after coming to know you, but... How is she right now?"
HISAO: "She missed school yesterday and seemed out of sorts when I checked up on her. Today she missed school again, and just told me to go away. I've really got no idea what to make of it. Has this happened in the past? Is it related to her scarring in some way?"
LILLY: "Unfortunately so. Roughly the same thing happened last year when her birthday came up. As far as I can tell, it's because her parents died in the accident that caused her scarring, and Hanako blames herself for their deaths."
What she says does seem to make sense. If she's blaming herself on her birthday, she may well be ruing that she was ever born. The fact that Lilly seems so in the dark about it though, almost to the extent that I am, is a surprise.
HISAO: "So that's why she lives in the student dormitories, as well. Has she told you any more about the accident?"
LILLY: "As close as we've come... she's very barely told me anything about what happened. What I know about it is largely conjecture."
She sounds depressed, almost defeated. Considering the trauma Hanako must have gone through, I really can't fault Lilly for not knowing. Nevertheless, she still seems to consider it a personal failing.
HISAO: "Don't blame yourself, Lilly. With everything she's gone through..."
LILLY: "I know. Thank you, Hisao. I'm sorry I can't be of more help to you."
HISAO: "It's fine, I'll just give it some more thought. Thanks, and have a good time in Scotland."
LILLY: "Um, I..."
LILLY: "It's nothing. Thank you for taking care of Hanako."
HISAO: "...Okay. Bye."
And with that, the line goes silent. Amid the seemingly only increased number of questions I can't answer, the most immediate is what Lilly was going to say.
Oh. Oh no. I'm an idiot. She must have thought I was calling to talk with her, but I only asked for help with Hanako. Even more shameful than that thought is the fact that such an appraisal would be largely correct.
Well... first things first. For now, I need to at least sort out Hanako and make sure that she's actually eating okay.
The occasional passing students give badly hidden glances at the plate of food I carry to the female dormitories. It's hardly a meal to be proud of, only being an instant microwave meal from the convenience store, but it should at least fill her up. Eventually I arrive outside of her room, after having to ward off a couple of girls who jokingly tried to pilfer the food I'd taken so long to procure. I decide to forgo knocking, since it was proven to be an utterly useless measure and it's somewhat difficult to do with my hands full.
HISAO: "Hanako, it's Hisao. I know you're listening. I got some food for you."
Silence. As I expected.
HISAO: "I'll leave it beside your door. Please eat it at least, okay?"
"There. I've said my piece. Now it's up to her. Putting the plate down, I walk back to my own room to eat my dinner. By the time I return to Hanako's dormitory, a good hour's passed. Thankfully, there isn't anything to be seen beside her door. I walk back at least somewhat happier that she's eating. If she intends to get through this by herself, then being able to help, even if it's just in such a small way, is at least something.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride
I sit reading in the library after school, turning page after page, barely registering the words written on each out of sheer boredom. With my cheek resting in my hand, I can't help noticing the slightly rough feeling against my palm. It won't be long before I'll need to get a razor. Giving up on reading, I simply let my head drop onto the book in front of me.
Things have quieted down considerably since Hanako began attending school again. When she first returned to class, nothing was said nor done that wasn't part of the usual routine, and it's been the same way since. Neither of us desired to bring up her accident, so there simply wasn't any point in pursuing it. Thus a few days went by, the daily grind continuing just as it had before. It's only natural that my mind would wander to other places, and more importantly, other people. The Lilly-shaped hole in the daily life of Hanako and I has been pretty noticeable for a while now. I'd be pleased to say that this has allowed me time to refine just what my thoughts on her exactly are, but alas, I've had no such luck. It doesn't help that many attempts to do so have led to the troublesome topic of Iwanako. Every time my thoughts drift into that direction, I reflexively try to think about something else.
HISAO: "Why did this have to happen now..."
I turn and look up to the source of the tentative voice coming from behind me.
HISAO: "Ah, sorry. I didn't mean to disturb anyone."
"That's... not it."
I glance around the orange-tinted room, quickly realizing how silly my apology must have sounded. In the time I've spent thinking and lazing about in here, everyone's well and truly left.
HISAO: "Library closing?"
"If you don't want to go, I could keep it open a bit longer. It's no trouble at all."
HISAO: "Don't worry, I should get going anyway. Thanks."
As I get up and begin to move off, I feel Yuuko's eyes drilling into my back.
HISAO: "Is there something wrong?"
"You look depressed. Are you okay?"
Yuuko nervously twists her fingers as she says this, unsure whether she's overstepping her boundaries or not. I really can't tell if she's more worried about my mood or about bothering me. Normally I'd just shrug it off and assure her that I'm fine, but my reflective mood gets the better of me. Despite being staff, she really doesn't feel as much like an authority figure as the others.
HISAO: "It's just... I guess the best term for it would be relationship problems."
"Oh. I'm... not too good with that kind of thing. My only relationship ended a bit abruptly. But if you want to talk about it, I mean, I could listen. I think."
Now I feel kind of bad for bringing it up. She's not that old, though, so at least she has a good chance of finding another partner.
HISAO: "It isn't like we're in a bad situation right now. We have spent many days together as friends, sometimes going out to do stuff... that kind of thing. But I'm starting to want to do more for her, learn more about her, and be with her more. I'm not sure whether it's actually love or not, though, and our friendship as it stands is enjoyable.
"You shouldn't let that stop you! Ah... sorry. How to say this... um... I think that it's nice that you have a good friendship, but school is going to eventually end. Do you think you'll be fine with not knowing if it could have gone further after you've graduated?"
HISAO: "I guess that's the crux of the problem. I really have no idea what the answer to that question is."
"Well, I can't really help there. What your true feelings are is something you have to decide for yourself. But I think that if you do love her, you should definitely say something. After thinking about it really hard, I decided that even though my relationship didn't work out, it's still better that way than never knowing if it might have or not."
I never expected Yuuko to sound so wise. It only makes sense that, with more life experience than I, she'd have a better idea about this. While I suppose not very much was actually answered, talking to her has helped get it off my chest, and I have no doubt that I should confess if I really do like Lilly. I give a slightly frustrated sigh.
HISAO: "If only reading so much actually helped when it comes to situations like this."
She gives a girlish giggle, which only reinforces my view of her as being different from the usual staff here.
In the end, it all comes down to what will happen after school finishes once again. Considering what happened before I came to Yamaku, it feels like being asked to keep up with a field of runners despite having started from a dozen yards behind them. It's just one more motive to move on from the past. The last thing I need right now is to get too caught up in that and getting homesick while I'm at it.
Once again, I find myself calling Lilly. My phone bill is going to be horrific, considering this is international. But it's worth it. I don't only want to smooth over her feelings from the last time I called, I genuinely want to talk to her again. When the phone finally picks up, I easily recognize the voice on the other end.
HISAO: "<Hello, Mrs. Satou. May I... uh... speak...>"
Damn. I've forgotten how the rest is supposed to go. It's not encouraging to forget such a small amount of words, even if I didn't spend that long trying to memorize them.
HISAO: "May I speak with Lilly, please?"
MRS. SATOU: "Hello again, Hisao. Are you teaching yourself English?"
HISAO: "Just a little. I don't think I'm too good at languages in general."
MRS. SATOU: "Oh, don't say that. Your pronunciation was good! I'll get Lilly for you, just wait a moment."
I obediently wait as she goes off in search of Lilly, the other end going silent. Eventually a much more awake-sounding Lilly than last time answers, the time over there being past noon by now.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Comfort
LILLY: "Hisao, are you there?"
HISAO: "Yeah, I'm here. Hi."
LILLY: "Good afternoon. Sorry for taking so long, I was outside in the garden."
LILLY: "Unfortunately I've found I'm no good at it, so I just smell the flowers. I think my fingers appreciate it more. I take it Hanako's recovered a bit?"
HISAO: "Yeah. I just made sure she was eating, and eventually she righted herself. Thanks for the help the other day."
LILLY: "I don't think I was really that much help. The main thing is that she's better, though."
HISAO: "True. How's life over there, then? It sounds like you've been living in nothing short of a mansion."
LILLY: "I wouldn't call it a mansion..."
But it is rather large is obviously what she wants to say, though modesty stops her. I'm a little envious, but it is her holiday.
LILLY: "It's a nice house to stay in, though. There's a beach near here too, which Akira's especially fond of."
HISAO: "She's a swimmer?"
LILLY: "She's constantly dragging me there to have swimming competitions. Which she wins. Every time."
Lilly doesn't strike me as very athletic at all, so not being adept at swimming seems logical enough. The fastest I've ever seen her move is her understandably relaxed pace during her walks to and from the suburbs down the hill from the school. It makes the image of her swimming hard to imagine.
HISAO: "The beaches there must look nice. They'd be less crowded than the ones around here at least."
LILLY: "Indeed, Akira says the area around here looks beautiful because it's so far outside the city."
I only realize what I've said after I say it, but it doesn't bother her at all. It's still easy to forget that she can't see when she's not around, despite the time we've been friends.
LILLY: "That said, the local accent sometimes makes communication a bit hard. It's a constant reminder that this isn't home."
While the fact that she doesn't consider her parents' residence to be her home makes good sense, it makes me realize that I can't really answer whether the same goes for me. Graduation from Yamaku is distant enough to be difficult to view objectively, and I've spent so much time in this small room. I've come to accept the dormitory as my new home surprisingly quickly.
HISAO: "I guess that would be hard to deal with. Is your knowledge of English holding up?"
LILLY: "Thankfully. I may be fluent, but being in a position where I have to use it often helps in curbing my Japanese accent, so it's been useful practice. I hear you're trying to teach yourself English?"
HISAO: "More like memorizing a few lines, and failing at even that much. I'm really not cut out for learning another language."
My admission of defeat draws an amused giggle.
LILLY: "I believe that there are things one chooses to do in life, and also things that are chosen for one to do in life. You can take comfort in the fact you're better than me in science and math, at least."
HISAO: "All that's helped in is making me Mutou's star student..."
LILLY: "I wouldn't worry about it. They're useful skills for many jobs, right?"
HISAO: "That's what he tells me. His face veritably lit up when I said I'd probably go into a career involving either."
We both share a warm laugh at the events that have befallen each other on opposite ends of the world. It's nice, and reminds me of our simple smalltalk that I've been missing since she left. As each of us waits for the other to begin speaking, I decide to push ahead with my feelings. I can feel my throat tightening slightly.
HISAO: "We... um, I... miss you."
The silence on the other end of the phone tells me she's given the words their due weight, but as it goes on I can't help feeling more and more apprehensive. Thankfully the silence ends, almost as quickly as it had begun.
LILLY: "I miss you too, Hisao. Goodbye."
HISAO: "Goodbye, Lilly."
Once again, the phone is hung up; simply and without any further ado.
That light, tentative, almost shy voice. Her warm and soft tone... I'd simply be lying to myself if I were to say that I don't recognize this feeling for what it is. With thoughts of Lilly dancing on my mind, I start anticipating her return.
Today has been a most excellent day.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
I sit listening to another of Mutou's long-winded lectures, my mind wandering far from the scribbles on the dirty blackboard.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Afternoon
Since I called Lilly, my mind's been drawn in two directions. Both, roughly, lead to the same conclusion; I've started to feel oddly detached from my past life. It's only been a month and a half since I arrived here, yet this school's become a second home. I've gained new friends and contacts, managed to get to grips with the school's lifestyle and culture, and become accustomed to the quirks of my classmates. To become used to a school where disabilities are the norm, rather than the rare exception, still catches me off guard sometimes when I think on it. The same school that's populated by burn victims, amputees, the blind, the deaf and all manner of disabilities inbetween. If someone had described this school to me before I'd come, I'd have shrugged it off as an overactive imagination. Even when I first arrived I felt like the Dutch, coming to this strange new land for the first time. It's amazing how quickly one becomes used to the environment they're forced to live in, really.
And now I've even found someone that's got me entirely smitten. What a strange life.
Before my mind can wander any further, though, I find a page of lined paper slipped under my distracted face. The garish, bright pink ink has no doubt been penned by Misha.
Mishas note posted:
Don't look so bored, Hicchan! School's nearly over! Three-day holiday!
Oh, right, we get Saturday and Monday off. Can't complain about having less school, I suppose. I uncap my pen and scribble on the page before covertly passing it back to her, flicking my eyes to the front of the class every now and then. Mutou continues scrawling away arcane equations and formulas on the board.
I'm guessing you have something planned?
Misha takes the paper back and hunches over it comically, even for her, with her tongue poking through the side of her mouth. Did she misinterpret my expression as depressed, and is she trying to cheer me up?
Mishas note posted:
Student council work with Shicchan, of course.
You're not still brooding over that, surely?
Mishas note posted:
But Hicchan could have helped us poor, lonely girls.
I'd lend you a hand for today if I weren't going to be busy.
Mishas note posted:
Ooh, naughty naughty Hicchan!
I'm just going to meet Lilly with Hanako. I don't know what you've got going through your head.
Mishas note posted:
So Lilly's back?
Yeah, she's coming on the evening flight with her sister, so she'll be back in school next week.
She suddenly stops writing as his tall figure casts an impossibly long shadow over the page.
MISHA: "Ah... I..."
He silently takes the piece of paper from her and begins to read. Sweating bullets, I quickly glance around the class, noting their complete silence. Of course, it would just have to be the one thing that actually gets their attention during the lesson. After a scant few seconds examining the page, he rolls the paper up into a small tube and lightly bops Misha over the head with it.
MUTOU: "Half an hour until you can hop off to the Student Council. I think you can hold on until then."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Ease
Misha's face cracks as the entire class erupts into laughter. He might well be awkward, but he knows how to handle her excellently. I'd probably feel sorry for her if I weren't as busy stifling my own laughter.
HANAKO: "Hisao, is that one it?"
HISAO: "No, I think that's some foreign airline."
And so, the third aircraft they're not on comes in to land. For the past half hour we've been whiling away the time with small snippets of pointless chatter. Lilly and Akira's flight has been delayed, and at this rate it'll probably be dark before their plane arrives.
HANAKO: "Is that one it?"
HISAO: "No, the company colors are wrong."
Hanako's eyes flutter left and right, following the trickle of people in and out of the huge glass doors ahead of us. Fortunately nobody pays her much heed, their attention apparently directed towards greater things.
HANAKO: "Maybe that one is it?"
HISAO: "No, I think that's... hold on a minute, I think that one might be it after all."
It takes still some more time before the billboard changes their flight's status to disembarking. A loud yawn sneaks up on me, not allowing enough time to stifle it. My sleep patterns have, once again, been all over the place; likely due to a mix of worrying about Hanako and the side-effects of my medications.
HANAKO: "Hisao, over there..."
I look to Hanako, then follow her gaze to the airport door.
AKIRA: "Hmm? Oh, Lilly, they're here!"
We all call out to each other in greeting, quickly shuffling over to the side to avoid blocking the passage of others.
Hanako jumps forward to hug Lilly, a wide smile on her face being all that's needed to see her happiness at Lilly's return. Lilly simply smiles in return, her voice soft.
LILLY: "It's wonderful to meet you again, Hanako."
As the two give each other a hug, well deserved after all that's happened while she was gone, I turn to Akira.
HISAO: "You're pretty late."
AKIRA: "Yeah, there was a really bad storm over the airport. We got drenched just going from the car to the door."
HISAO: "I guess you'll appreciate the weather here more, then. Welcome back to you too, Lilly."
Hanako breaks off from Lilly as I speak.
For a long time, neither of us says a word. Contrary to what I'd thought her homecoming would be like, the atmosphere feels awkward, almost stifling. Both of us try to guess each other's feelings, not quite sure about what should be said.
Damn. This is exactly what I feared when I'd thought of trying to move things forward between us. Lilly runs her hand through her fair hair and awkwardly twirls one of her bangs in her fingers, clearly trying to think of how best to react. Eventually, thankfully, Lilly gives a small sigh and breaks the silence.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Concord (Lillys Theme)
LILLY: "Thank you, Hisao. It's nice to be back."
HANAKO: "Are you okay? You look tired."
Evidently not recollecting herself all that well, she quickly waves her hand in front of her face to stave off any concern Hanako may have over her.
LILLY: "I'm okay, really. It's just a bit of jet lag."
HISAO: "You don't have any?"
She simply gives a big grin, puffing out her modest chest.
AKIRA: "I feel absolutely fine!"
LILLY: "That's not fair..."
AKIRA: "Haha, ah well. Ya shouldn't take too long to get rid of it."
LILLY: "Ah! That's right, Hisao?"
LILLY: "Don't we have a holiday from school soon?"